With one of the most distinctive rock faces of the Southern or Lucanian Apennine mountains, Monte Alpi (Pizzo Falcone 1,900m) is a rather challenging climb, from either side. This August we tried to make out a new scrambling route on its severe looking west face. Without snow and ice, however, an ascent can be even more arduous and, because of the omnipresent tufts of grass and the frangible rock, anything but innocuous.
On a beautiful morning we arrived short after sunrise right at the foot of the mountain. The ridge or the face? After scrutinizing the face the decision fell on a practicable looking line on one ofter the rock buttresses.
Initially we did make good progress. But even the first fifty meters made it clear, that we would have to be cautious, very cautious, indeed. With winter’s snow covering the grass and crampons on the shoes this could have been a demanding mixed route. The hideous grass, however, made it hard to find a foothold that would not disintegrate gradually. Also the rock quality left a lot to be desired. Almost every handhold turned out to be precarious, too.
Although the situation was fairly tense, we still seemed to be moving within a tolerable range. If one kept concentrating and moving one limb at a time …, right? And then again, the passages ahead promised to become less grassy. But sometimes things simply not turn out the way they should, quite the contrary, I’d say.
The real trouble started around the time we would reach the height of the first grown specimens of the majestic Bosnian Pine, which is prospering also in a significant number on the narrow ledges and craggy buttresses of the west face of Monte Alpi.
Indeed, there had been some steeper parts with better rock quality. What could make you ponder by now was the very serious exposure of some almost vertical passages.
Another fifty meters, approximately, and slowly it became clear that the worst possible situation was right above our head, another grassy (and almost vertical) passage, – this time with a dire looking exposure.
Was there another way around? With a deep and impracticable chasm to the left and a heavily vegetated couloir to the left our options seemed to be restricted. The right time for a break and catching breath.
We decided that, without a rope or any belaying device at hand, carrying on was out of the question. In order to avoid a nasty and tiresome descent we would have to try the couloir. But how to get around the corner of the cliff we were on? Between our current position and the rim of the couloir stretched yet another vertical wall. Since we would have to traverse only a few meters the choice was made quickly and in favour of this somewhat daring attempt. It took us quite some time, good balance and some fairly fancy moves but eventually our feet touched the steep slope.
Dashing down the couloir felt like defeat, but wait! Only after a few meters we came upon a breach in the lateral wall which led up again. Why don’t go with another traverse and try to reach the ridge we had seen frome the foot of the mountain? A word and a blow.
For diversion, this decision turned out to be the right one. An easy scramble and we reached the very ridge we had already spotted (and discarded) from below.
Although the both inclination (around 70 degrees) and terrain were all but favourable, we made it also to the onset of the last ridge below the summit. From this point on only one thing would count – stamina.
Monte Alpi is a true challenge. And, be assured that the summer months are not the ideal season if you should be wanting to test out its impressive west face. Before you know it, a medium scrambling route can turn into a tricky climbing experience. In case you should not be absolutely sure about the route you’re taking, you might easily climb yourself into a trap. So, bringing a rope is definitely a good idea.
Here below I want to share some more impressions from our visit to the twin summit of Monte Alpi – Pizzo Falcone (1,900m) and Santa Croce (1,893m), its foresummit.